A Quick Guide To Dealing With Anger At Work

Dealing with anger at work in a constructive way is not always easy. Sometimes little things may get to you and before you know it, you've reacted in an angry way.

It's not a matter of whether feeling angry is good or bad. It is a matter of whether acting in anger brings you any benefits, and if not, finding a way to deal with anger in a better way.

Let me tell you about an occasion when, not knowing an effective way of handling my anger at work, I acted on it...

It was a busy day at work - one of those in which everything would ideally run smoothly. But one critical piece of equipment on my computer was giving problems, as it did occasionally.

I approached my superviser, who was sitting at the reception desk. I told her that the piece of equipment was not working, and before I could inform her that I was going to sit at a different desk, she pointed, 'It seems it's always you who has this particular problem with that piece of equipment - nobody else does'.

I replied, slightly irritated, 'It's not 'me' who has this problem - it's whoever sits at the desk I'm sitting, since the problem is the piece of equipment on the computer. What happens is that it's me who normally sits there.'

'Well, then you shouldn't sit there, if you know there is a problem with that computer', she replied impatiently. I started to feel angry. 'There isn't always a problem, only sometimes. Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I'm going to sit at a different desk', I replied while trying hard to keep calm.

'Then why didn't you do that in the first place?', she asked in a demanding tone.

At that point I lost my temper and I said to her, in a louder voice, 'Look, I'm tired of this unsupportive environment, I've had enough of it and I'm this close to just walk out'.

She also raised her voice as she said 'Don't talk to me in that tone. If you've got a problem with your computer, you should sort it. I will speak to our manager about the way you have spoken to me today'.

Feeling very angry and frustrated, I walked away.

All that this episode brought me, apart from the tension in that moment, was two meetings of one and a half hours each, to discuss what had happened.

I could have saved myself those meetings and the tense interaction with my superviser if, rather than being carried away by my anger, I had dealt with the situation in a better way.

You have surely realized that reacting in anger will seldom bring you what you want, while at the same time may bring you undesired consequences.

Dealing with anger at work successfully involves separating the actual feeling you experience from the thoughts that feed it, as I explain in detail in my handbook 'From Conflict To Calm'.

A quick guide to dealing with anger at work

Here are a few useful tips to deal with anger successfully...

  • When you notice yourself starting to feel angry, take a deep breath and acknowledge to yourself how you feel.

  • Remember that if you choose to react in anger you're likely to have unpleasant consequences, and make a conscious decision to NOT give in to the anger. Give instead a chance for something different to happen.

  • Keep focused on your breathing for as long as you must stay in the situation - for instance, if you're in the middle of a meeting you may just not be able to leave.

  • Once you're alone, take the time to feel the tension in your body that the feeling of anger has produced. Don't add thought on to it - simply feel how anger feels in your body. You will find that the actual energy of anger starts to subside after you've welcomed it.

  • Deal with the thoughts separately, or put your attention on to something else altogether. You can find specific ways of dealing with anger at work in my handbook 'From Conflict To Calm', where I give you a complete guide to move from a situation of conflict at work to one of calm and ease.
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You can also put in practice the above steps for dealing with anger at work by taking some time alone and remembering a situation in which you experienced anger at work, and working through your feelings.

In this way, you 'get some practice' on handling anger, and you are better able to handle your anger when it does come up at the workplace.

"Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret."

Ambrose Bierce

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